How sustainable is driven grouse shooting
The rhetoric today is that driven grouse shooting is an unsustainable piece of history that we should let go. In place of Moorland, we will have wind turbines and woodland. We lose the moorland and its famous vivid purple heather in favour of boring brown ferns and shrubs ie, not a great deal. In most cases, the arguments for and against have been a battle of beliefs. While the fieldsports industry has consistently provided statistics and facts, those against shooting have shouted the loudest and stooped the lowest. This review covers the topic of sustainability. We like their definition of Sustainability which is sustainability is a long term goal to achieve a more sustainable world. Keep this in mind as the video goes on.
The video we’ve linked below is the summary of evidence of Driven Grouse Shooting and its alternatives. This study is being led by Professer James Crabbe of Oxford University and Dr Simon Denny of Northampton University. The study aims to look at the social, economic and environmental impacts of Driven Grouse Shooting and its sustainability. The key for them was looking to compare Driven Grouse Shooting to its alternatives. By aiming for just one you often create detrimental outcomes for the others.
A key group within the social part of the study are the Beaters. A non-shooting attendee of a day who works as a group to direct the birds towards the lines of guns. Time spent outdoors with friends and family is a bigger motivator than financial compensation. Beaters are often from the local area but with some outliers travelling up to 60 miles. An interesting point raised is the health benefit and costs associated with each beater over the age of 45. Those people are costed at 1966£ per person in relevance to their health, by beating these people are remaining fit often through a period of the year where national health declines.
Loneliness is another consideration of the study. The benefits to the individuals in the sense of health and camaraderie is extremely valuable. While there is no absolute number for the benefit to each individual, there is certainly a trend to show its benefits. When compared to the proposed alternatives, Driven Grouse Shooting provides the most social benefits of all of them. The age range is vast, beaters range from as young as 8 to as old as 80. For the older people, this is a period of the year which they can look forward to as it’s time with friends and gives them a sense of belonging and purpose.
Keeping those people in mind consider the Economic impact should Driven Grouse Shooting end. Older beaters would increasingly look to the government to subsidise lost income and the issue is compounded when looking to support the lost social benefits too. The gamekeepers would also lose their jobs and subsequent housing which would increase pressure on local funding.
Tourism is vital to these local rural areas, the North Yorkshire Moors national park saw 8.4 million visitors in 2018. The value of the expenditure was in the region of 730 million pounds with 11,300 people employed. When surveyed, 95% of those visitors commented on the beauty of the rolling moorland and wildlife. In this area, 80-85% of the land supports Driven Grouse Shooting. This habitat doesn’t look the way it does through sheer luck but through the efforts of local estates and the gamekeepers on them.
For local businesses, this connection with Driven Grouse Shooting is a vital artery. Visitors to these regions come to see beautiful wildlife and habitat which is maintained and improved by the local estates. Even non shooting visitors are benefitting from the predator control that supports rare bird numbers. Equally, regular heather burning assures the purple heather and habitat remains as the postcard images would suggest.
The work done by estates also includes rural improvements, this includes footpaths and moorland restoration. These features are there all year round and benefit visiting walkers and local communities all year round. This work also looks to build a foundation for future heather moorland in the area. While this obviously benefits Driven Grouse Shooting, it also has trickle down benefits to wider communities.
The UK is home to most of the upland Heather moorland in the world. This makes it unique and important on a global scale. Red Grouse are also only 1 of 7 endemic species found in the UK making it a unique bird within a unique habitat. The Conservation work done by the gamekeepers aims to improve the numbers of “plants, animals and invertebrates that live there and make the moor beautiful”. Methods to do this include Heather Burning which clears old heather to promote fresh heather. This provides the perfect food and nest base for ground nesting birds including curlew and lapwing.
Heather Burning is a hot topic at the moment but in the context of land management, it’s nothing new and isn’t a result of grouse moors. As is said in the video, “What must be avoided at all costs is wildfires”. While controlled burnings take just the top layer of mature heather, wildfires dry out the peat stores below. Burnt peat is the main offender when it comes to releasing carbon. Note, controlled burns leave minimal impact on the peat. When these Wildfires happen, the first responders are often Gamekeepers who have firefighting equipment. Driven Grouse Shooting is the sole reason gamekeepers can afford to have access to this equipment.
To maximise the biodiversity on moorland you need a variety of vegetation like what’s found on grouse moors. “If you move away from the mosaic, you move away from bio diversity”. Rewilding will increase the risk of wildfire and have a negative impact on wildlife. Poor weather is only countered by good land management, while nature can be unpredictable the management can be predicted. Even planting mature broadleaf trees would result in a net loss to carbon capture and there is currently 0 evidence to suggest alternative uses of moorland could capture as much carbon as current practices.
Driven Grouse Shooting doesn’t take place in isolation but as an integration of multiple activities. These activities result in Social, Economic and Environmental benefits which have increasingly positive costed benefits. Considering the alternatives there is no evidence to support that these could achieve similar results; In fact, the impact of the alternatives would be increasingly negative.
When done properly, the current way of managing moorland is sustainable. Looking at all sides of the argument to be as objective as possible the alternatives don’t offer the same benefits. This report should act as a cornerstone document to support the ongoing work of Gamekeepers and moorland managers. This document will continue to evolve to reflect any new evidence that comes to light. The document is available in full for anyone to read through the Northampton University website and we have also copied the video below.
Before you go
We have an enormous amount of gratitude for both the University of Northampton and the University of Oxford. The individuals involved in compiling and giving evidence have done fieldsports an enormous favour. The time spent conducting a survey of this size is enormous and we are grateful for it. This document should serve as a beacon to those creating the negative noise around fieldsports. Finally an objective, factual and clear understanding of how complex Driven Grouse Shooting is. What is quite clear is that days shooting only make up some of the story.